Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday word, 21 Jan 2009

St. Agnes, virgin, martyr (21 Jan 2009)
Hb 7. 1-3, 15-17; Ps 110; Mk 3. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Moving Forward

In moving forward--the faith-goal of each of our life-journeys, as well as the progress of the preacher of the Letter to the Hebrews--in moving forward with his presentation about Jesus, the preacher considered Melchizedek, whom he mentioned earlier, citing the Psalmist: you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. To understand better Melchizedek the preacher searched scripture, because ancients used scripture to understand it.

Melchizedek only appears in one other place, in Genesis. He is a gentile, as is Abraham strictly speaking because their meeting predated his circumcision. He is king, and this gentile remarkably is a priest of God most high!

Other than that we cannot know more because Melchizedek is without father, without mother, without ancestry. For him no list exists of which scripture is full, like Abraham was the father of Isaac. This makes sense to us when we accept the principle the preacher and his hearers held, “what is not in scripture is not in the world.”

The preacher inferred that without parents, the priest-king had no beginning of earthly days nor end of life because scripture does not mention his death. Thus does Melchizedek resemble the Son of God, who remains a priest forever. This was obvious to the preacher because he operated within this view of reality.

For the preacher law put people in relationship with God. It was acted out through forms of worship the law prescribed. The goal of the relationship was not sacrifices but the transformation of humans more into God’s likeness and life. Thus, it was even more obvious to the preacher that Jesus’ priesthood/1/ more than resembled that of Melchizedek because Jesus has entered into God’s life ahead of us. Faithful response to Jesus is our ongoing transformation of ourselves. Because Jesus has entered God’s indestructible life,/2/ he offers us the power to enjoy it, too. That is truly moving forward, beginning with Melchizedek and fulfilled by Jesus, our great high priest,/3/ forerunner/4/ and pioneer/5/ of our faith.

1. Hebrews 7.11
2. See Hebrews 6.19-20, ending yesterday’s selection.
3. Hebrews 4.14.
4. Hebrews 6.20.
5. Hebrews 2.10, 5.9.
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